Sunday, July 15, 2018
Judy in her writing corner July 2018.
Shadows Fourteen July 8, 2018
Our days cool ten degrees–what a change.
I pull on a long-sleeved shirt. The chicks
need their heat lamp. My son walks his
dog in the cool evening air. My body
inches its way back to normal. I am
still Judy Hogan. I can walk at the dam
again. I laugh telling tales of when I
took those in power so much by surprise
that they changed their tune. When I
fill their feeders, I stop to watch the
chicks run to the new feed or sit
placidly to watch. I load my new
book files onto the website for printing
them. I ask help from old and new
friends, and they come through. So
many things in my everyday life feel
like miracles. I tell myself, yes, I did
the groundwork, I established the
trust, yet I am still surprised. Who
knew age could have so many
miracles even as my power wanes. I
never did demand acclaim, only the
opportunity to send my words out
on the world’s waters for strangers
to read, revel in, and meditate on
the truth they hold in their hands.
Sunday, July 8, 2018
Vera Belikh's painting of Volga, boats, and church, at Tver
Shadows Thirteen July 1, 2018
Another hot day lives outside
my window. I’m healing slowly.
I’ll soon be able to care for the
chicks again. Two more days.
They live in the coop now in
their own “room,” only rarely
need the heat lamp. I’ll be able to
fill their feeders and waterer;
make sure their heat lamp is on
in the cool night air. My spirit
staggered under the command
to heal or bleed. I healed. Now
it’s time to find my feet again,
resume my chores, my daily
walk, live without deranging
fear, trust my heart to keep its
steady pace, my limbs to carry
me, my Muse to speak and comfort
me and others at the same time.
Sunday, July 1, 2018
Photo of my White Rock hens several years ago, by John Ewing
Shadows Eleven June 17, 2018
A friend who is four years older,
still working hard with mower
and chainsaw, had a stroke. It’s
what the doctors worry about
with me. I’ve eased off the hard
physical labor, but I still carry
water to the hens, rake, hoe, and
plant seeds, dig out weeds. I wrote
a new novel in April and May, and
now I type it. I cook and clean,
but I rest when I’m tired, still sleep
hard at night, avoid high heat days.
The body has its signals, tells me
to ease up, take a break, but it
doesn’t mean I can’t still do most
things. And my muse is still lively.
I notice small signs, read the souls
of others better than they know or
want to know. Wesley surprised
me. His early love not dead at
eighty-one, his fantasy still alive;
mine, locked in memory. Most
loves faded or fell silent. Only
one burns bright still and, like
a sun in the underworld,
outshines all the lesser ones.
Sunday, June 24, 2018
Judy and Mikhail in 1992 in Kostroma, Russia
Adelaide Books of New York City will publish my first memoir of my Russian experiences early in 2019. Here's a little about it.
I open my experience, not only of coping with a potent love but also of making bonds with a nationally known painter, a school teacher, and a philosophy student. I was one of the first American writers to visit the Kostroma region, and my partner in the exchanges was a new experience for central North Carolina residents. Our writer exchanges and mutual publishing projects continued through 2001. These new connections occurred as Russia went through the upheaval of changing from Communism to Capitalism. This intense experience of working on peace and understanding with our former enemy was the biggest event of my life.
In 1992 I would meet Vera Belikh, the painter and philosopher daughter of the national painter, Aleksei Belikh, whom I met in 1990 during my first visit. Here is Vera's painting of a church by the Volga, in the autumn.
This is the Black River flowing through the remote forest or taiga in the Mezha District of the Kostroma Region. The county officials took me to see the landscape near where Mikhail had been born, in a village among many lost during the collectivization of the farms, and the loss of men in World War II (The Great Patriotic War). Mikhail talked and reminisced about his growing up in a village from the beginning of our writer exchanges.
In August 1992 I was also able to spend some time in the village of Gorka, where MIkhail's wife Katya had grown up. Left to right, Tanya, Mikhail's granddaughter, Larissa, married to Mikhail's son Misha, standing, then the little son of Misha and Larissa, then Shura, Katya's sister-in-law, and Katya's brother Kolya, and in front: Aleksei (Alyosha), Mikhail's younger son, and then Mikhail. Taken in front of the village house, where I also stayed.
In Moscow after I visited Kostroma in August 1990, I met Larissa Bavrina (on the right),pictured here with her friend Tanya, close since childhood. Larissa gave me and my son a tour of Red Square before we caught our train back to Finland. Larissa and I still correspond. She's become a close friend of mine.Our early letters, 1990-92 are in Baba Summer: Part One. Judy
Sunday, June 17, 2018
Nadya's apples and plums from her dacha. 2009
Little Bobby! He used to come out from
his nap, get in my lap, and we would read
a story. His blonde hair stood straight up.
After the graduation exercises were over,
we waited a long time to see our tall Bobby.
His hair curls now. I held onto Tim’s arm
as we walked back to his truck. There goes
little Bobby into his new life. I work to
bring a happy closure to my life, put my
books into print, stop the coal ash dumping,
heal where I’m looked to; accept the
extra help as needed, soothe and reassure
others who hesitate to put their full weight
on living their own lives, trusting their
own souls. Trust yours, Bobby! It’s there.
Sunday, June 10, 2018
Wise sage in my garden a few years ago.
Shadows Nine June 3, 2018
It all helps. When I scorched the bread,
turning the heat to broil instead of turning
it off, my son comforted me. “Michael
Jordan said in his life he’d missed more baskets
than he’d hit, and he was the greatest
basketball player of all time.” Then Wesley
called, my very first love. At twelve, our
love was simple. He brought me a gardenia
every day. We held hands and were happy.
Now he tends his wife who has dementia,
and he can’t seem to answer my letters.
He doesn’t know why. I said, “This is
wearing on your spirit. Don’t be too hard
on yourself.” At the coal ash meeting
we learn of a study to test the wells around
the landfill that holds six million tons of
poison. We have new members joining us
from another local group. These are gifts
to keep me going. I am always behind
in my daily chores, but we eat well
and admire our happy tomato plants.
The weeds return with every rain, but
the hydrangea and the daylilies bloom.
The good in my life defies all logic as
usual and touches my inward soul like
a softly falling rain.
Sunday, June 3, 2018
Shadows Eight May 20, 2018
May has brought surprises good
and bad. My story–our story--of a
love that crossed the huge ocean--
will go into print in less than a year.
I happily prepare the text for
publication. My editor is impatient
but passionate. I tell everyone I
meet. My Russian friends rejoice,
too, and send permission to print
their letters. Friendships ruled
those years, and sometimes love,
which went too deep to let go and
lifted us to a higher plane of
existence. What people see is an
old woman who is sometimes
stubborn. She fights with doctors
and talks about her Muse, which
is no longer fashionable. Not that
it matters. Socrates didn’t trouble
himself about fashions. Nor did
Plato, who knew about falling in
love. He fell in love with the
reality behind things that made
them what they are. Let them
think what they wish. My glimpses
of the real world will stand the
test of time as well as my shoes
did when I had to talk through
foot-deep running water to cross
the street and the next morning
they were dry.
Sunday, May 20, 2018
My figs during their prosperous years--2011, August.
Shadows Seven April 29, 2018
Beginnings are hardest. In the morning
I sit up slowly, inch my way closer
to a place to hold on, rise carefully,
balance before I walk. I make sure I don’t
go too long without eating and sleep early.
As the day waxes, my confidence returns.
I remember what I need to, see to the hens,
make notes in my diary, in which I tell
the whole story. Sometimes I start to fall,
but I catch myself. At the dam I walk
steadily, don’t fear falling. Back at
home I’m warmer, shed layers, resume
morning tasks and rituals, with enough
energy for the day. By myself I see the
years of faithful work to leave my legacy
of stories and insights alive behind me.
Among others I see their discomfort.
They don’t look at me. They forget
my place in the line-up of poets. I make
them nervous. Why? Maybe because
I look into Death’s face and am not
afraid. How does one find that
particular courage? It arrives in time
to be useful in the last years, but I
realize I’ve practiced going my own way
most of my life, since age twenty-one,
to nearly eighty-one. Not dismissing
urgencies that would keep me whole
and safe, not denying love when it
defied logic. Those who hated me? I
stayed away, and generally, they did, too.
I sometimes lose things or forget them,
but I’ve never forgotten to safeguard
my soul and keep it whole, no matter
what my circumstances are.
Sunday, May 6, 2018
Early Spring bees and onions several years ago.
Shadows Four April 8, 2018
Some see the world as a dangerous place.
I don’t. One says, “You see it as a safe place.”
I say, “No, but I see it differently. I know
there are dangers, but I’m focused on trying
to be in tune with the grain of the universe,
with the way it’s made. I follow my deep
intuition, even when it doesn’t make sense.
It makes me accident-unlikely. I may have
accidents, but usually they’re not as bad as
they could have been. So, yes, I had that flat
tire on Thursday, but it happened in my
front yard. I drove it across the road and
turned. When it was still bad, I pulled over
and stopped to look. I had a very flat right
front tire. Or I have car trouble as I pull into
a service station. I work toward peace
with my neighbors and fight for all of us
for cleaner air and water. They respect me
and protect me. I’ve never been harmed
by my neighbors, and I’ve often been
helped. You don’t need to worry about them
harming me.” I have a very different
orientation to the world. There are dangers
and evil people. If people are determined
to be my enemy, I stay away from them.
In the meantime, I try to have friendly
relations with everyone, if it’s possible. I’m
outspoken, and some people hate what I say
and can’t forgive me. One day I might be
harmed, but this way to live suits me.
Sunday, April 29, 2018
My first and only iris this spring.
Shadows Six April 22, 2018
My shadow at the dam is shorter now.
It walks close behind me or right in front.
I watch for new wild flowers and try
to guess which birds are circling high
above me. Wag and I go at a steady
pace, meet another, younger dog-walker,
who smiles as they pass us. We walk
more slowly, but we are there, keeping
our limbs limber, our bodies warmed
by the exercise. I count the cars of the
fishers below us, standing back now
from the turmoil of water as it explodes
high when released from the dam. Some
mornings I wonder if my old body can
get me through another day with ease,
even with grace. It does, and my doubts
fall back until another day. I sleep hard,
at night and sometimes by day–
unexpectedly. In the doctor’s office
my blood pressure was good; heart
and lungs still doing their work.
I keep walking if more slowly, nod
off when I’m tired, and words keep
flowing. It’s all I ask.
Sunday, April 22, 2018
Winter Scene of Gene Dillard's home.
Gene Dillard has been my friend for twenty-seven years. He became a good poet in spite of himself. In Honduras, he wrote this one:
I saw his bent frame
walking toward the Mercado,
across his shoulders
a large pole with
huge bunches of bananas
hanging from each side.
through my mind
like corrugated sheet metal
used for roofing
in the third world
I thought he was a troubadour
carrying many fascinating
odes encased with
a protective outer skin,
waiting for a chance
His real love came later: building sculptures
Tree to left of house
Then bottle walls
Then mosaic trees, flowers, stars and mirrors, on his garage and house walls.
back of house and porch
Then he went inside; made tables and chairs, walls and skylights.
Everywhere he looked, he saw where the beautiful could transform the ordinary. People came to stare, to wonder at his patience. Mosaic work takes months, sometimes a whole year to remake one wall. He dreams new visions for his house museum, then starts work.
Gene at top of tower.
He's a great artist, isn't he?
Sunday, April 15, 2018
My phalaenopsis now beginning its blooms.
Shadows Five April 15, 2018
As our days warm, the sun higher
earlier, my shadow follows or leads
me up close. Greens dominate the
dam’s verges and the wooded hills.
I see the flowering grasses–so small
I pick one to see it up close: four
pale violet petals, one up, three down,
a white dot in the center, like an orchid.
A distant cousin maybe. My small
window orchids are blooming, and
the big phalaenopsis begins buds.
My son and I plant peas and beets,
and the new rain waters them. The
hens can’t wait to get out when I open
their chicken door. The house stays
warm at night. The trees are leafing
out. Winter was unwilling to get
out of bed, and Spring rushed in
and yanked off the cloud cover.
My heart beats normally; I sleep
hard, wake rested. The dog and I
do our ritual walk, and I count
fishermen and watch for new wild
flowers, say hello to other walkers.
When we arrive home, Wag nuzzles
me to let her out. The radio gives
me holy music, and I rest in the
Sunday, April 8, 2018
Three Cliffs Bay on Gower Peninsula, Wales. By John Ewing
Shadows Three April 1, 2018
It takes sun to make shadows. From
age twenty-one I’ve been entranced
by sun coming through leaves, bright
green, then darker, when the wind moves
them out of light into shade. Or wine
with sun in its depths, transforming
its reds, or its warmth on my back
as I plant seeds or weed untidy rows.
At the dam I watch for sun in order
to see my shadow. Winter has many
dark and cloudy days. Sometimes the
sun is trying to break through its
cloud cover but still no shadows,
which, at my new age, reassure me.
They are sun’s other children after all.
I feel more whole when my shadow
stretches out behind me or leads me
forward. These days uneven ground
makes me stumble, slow down to place
my feet carefully, hold onto my fence,
watch the way ahead. I keep walking
so that I can keep walking. On a
straight, flat road, I can look around,
trust my feet, but in the backyard
or in the house, I watch every step.
The hens like to excavate, make
hills and valleys in their straw, dig
down to see what’s there, find
food grains they missed or buried.
They can kick away until there’s a big
hole. On a warm day, they dig into the
earth, work it into their feathers, take
dirt baths. It must feel cool on their
skin. So I walk, hoping for shadows,
behind or before. Everything I do,
everywhere I walk, matters. Sun
confirms that every time it outwits
the cloudy sky.
Sunday, April 1, 2018
My White Rock hens a few years ago. This could be today.
Based on “Rapids” by Julia Kennedy in her calendar painting for May 2018
For me it’s shadows. Every day I walk across
the dam, I watch for my shadow marching
below me, down the hill, and some days,
when the wind is still, even across the water
and up the hill at the other end of the earthen
dam that creates Jordan Lake. In the painting
there is one small human figure surrounded
by rushing water, darkly threatening clouds,
with only a small window of blue that could
be sky but is probably water. That little
shadow is very persistent as she trudges
along. Even in a wind, she doesn’t hesitate,
pulls her hood up to protect her neck and
ears. A step at a time a great distance can
prove possible. But, oh for the courage
to believe in that shadow. I like to think
that when I’m gone, and even if storm clouds
dominate, and water boils and foams, and
wind is cruel and relentless, that my shadow--
all that is left of me and whatever words
on paper survive my death--will keep on
walking with firm steps, seeing more than
I can see now, accepting storms, even
lightning, but refusing to be dismissed,
ignored, or turned aside. Something eternal
or stubborn, or so part of the nature of
things that it simply won’t let go.
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Early Spring in 2011. Beets and Leeks
Shadows Two March 26, 2018
Erik Erikson said Ghandi found his
true identity when he was fifty. I
was seventy, still healthy, writing
and publishing books, teaching writers,
a small farmer with a flock of White
Rock hens, and a leader in my
community. At eighty, I take that
diversity of tasks for granted. I don’t
debate. It is a balancing act, and
my balance ability is distressed
by my age. Still, I rake and dig.
I hold onto tree branches and my
chain-link fence. I’ve said I’m
both Penelope and Odysseus. I
did have my once-in-a-lifetime
love–across the ocean, despite
the language barrier, and our
different lifestyles. We fought,
but we held on. He became one
of Homer’s shades, reduced to
shadows in the Underworld, but
still alive, still speaking and
foretelling the planet’s future if
we don’t attend to the signs. I’ll
be a shade, too, before too many
years have passed. Some of that
is beyond my control, and some
is up to me. The doctors urged
a cane four years ago, but I said
no. “I can’t farm with a cane.”
They said medicine, but I was
wary of the side-effects, the
medicine worse than the complaint.
My body heals while I sleep. It
puts me to sleep a lot. But my
aches and pains go away. I tell
them I have good telemeres.
They listen. The symptoms which
puzzled them have disappeared.
Eighty isn’t so bad if you accept
that your pace will be slower;
you’ll do less work in a day and
choose your tasks carefully,
get as much exercise as possible,
and let people help you. My helpers
appear out of the blue. I don’t ask
why. They don’t tell me why. They
simply go to work. I give them bread.
A piece of Judy’s bread toasted
with marmalade makes them happy.
No, I’m not a shade yet, and life
still pulls surprises out of my
lucky grab bag. I can’t complain.
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Tormentil Hall: The Eighth Penny Weaver Mystery by Judy Hogan. $15. March 2018. Paperback, ISBN-13: 978-19775235709, 212 pages. Hoganvillaea Books. To order, $18 (tax and postage added) PO Box 253, Moncure, NC. 27559
By Katherine Wolfe, Goldsboro writer.
I must confess I liked Sands of Gower so much that I was worried I might not like Tormentil Hall as well. How wrong I was!. From the first page, I knew my second visit to Gower would be equal to or better than the first. (It takes more than one date to get to know someone or more than one visit to know a place.)
As Penny introduces her friends Sammie and Derek to Wales, the reader is reacquainted with the Gower Peninsula, its villages, its mountain, its history, and why Penny goes there to write poetry and think about her life. The story begins as a peaceful holiday vacation for Penny's friends, but conflict quickly develops and a murder occurs which keeps the reader engaged until the end.
In solving the murder, Penny and Sammie travel to the village of Pwll-du and Swansea where they interact with everyday people: the librarian, the post office owner, a retired barrister, B&B owners and guests, and the police department. As they unravel the mystery, the reader learns much about the human race and its prejudices as well as its ability to love, heal, and rise after being knocked down.
When I finished the book, I felt like I had traveled with Penny and Sammie. I liked the walks along the cliffs, eating digestive biscuits, sitting around a table with the people of Gower, drinking milky coffee with meat pies, Welsh cakes, or a ploughman's lunch of cheese, bread, and pickles.
Note: if you order two of the Penny Weaver Mysteries, it’s only $25, including tax and postage. Learn more at http://judyhogan.home.mindspring.com
Sunday, March 11, 2018
My phalaenopsis in early spring
Flowers of the Heart Twenty-Four March 11, 2018
For Susan Cotten
I still miss Susan. She lived next door to the
post office. She was nearly unflappable.
She listened, she teased us. She had grown
up in Moncure and knew all the old-timers,
but newcomers were welcome, too. She
teased her husband about his chickens
and at first refused to eat their eggs,
but she came around. She was a Republican
and teased me about being a Democrat.
We laughed. When I was told by a hospital
neurologist, after some tests, that I shouldn’t
drive, I thought I’d better set up a mailbox
here, but Susan said she’d bring me my
mail and she did. When I got a different
diagnosis and went back to driving, I could
visit Susan again. I wrote about her in our
electric co-op’s magazine and how she
lived by the Golden Rule, which is not
always a behavior guide to Christians. In
my experience, it’s rare. Susan did all
the work a postmaster does, but she didn’t
have the title. She served us well and
beyond expectations for three years, and
then they advertised for her job, and Robin,
who qualified, became, not our postmaster,
but one step higher in postal rank than Susan.
Robin struggled to make us happy. We missed
Susan so much. Susan was sad and wouldn’t
talk to anyone at first. She missed us, and
we missed her. When she got a job in
personnel at Walmart, she found a new
niche where she could treat everyone as she
would like to be treated. The Christmas
after she found her new job, she brought
me gifts: kitchen towels, pot-holders,
dishcloths. When I use them, I think of
her. Another Christmas she brought me
a warm blanket to put over my legs in a
cold house. Some friends stay even when
you don’t see them often. When we do meet,
we exchange tight hugs. I still miss her.
A rare spirit, alive and loving, among us.
Sunday, March 4, 2018
Sensation Cosmos on my dining table.
Flowers of the Heart Twenty-Three March 4, 2018
For Robin Beane
She’s a worker. Running a small post office
and two carrier routes has challenges thick
on the ground, but Robin has a tough spirit.
She holds it together even when her back
hurts or her teeth are killing her. Her first
job, when she took over, was winning us
over. We all loved Susan, whom she replaced.
Small post offices in rural North Carolina
are like general stores used to be. We love
to chat with our postmaster. We want to be
known, maybe even spoiled. Robin set out
to spoil us. Susan had lollipops for children.
Robin went farther. She put out candy for
adults, too. She was always glad to see us,
wished us a good day when we left. When
I got a box of books, she’d heft it onto
her shoulder and carry it to my truck. The
tradition of the mail must go through holds
here. She came in even on icy mornings.
The old building had its limitations, but
Robin worked to get things fixed: heating,
cooling, painting, steps (when a mail truck
backed into them). When you live alone, as
I do, and many others here, it’s cheering
to be welcomed, as if you’re important,
even treasured. It isn’t only me. I see
everyone who comes in regularly, enter
with the confidence that they’ll be
treated kindly, attentively. When Robin’s
back went out, we had subs. We were
relieved and joyful when Robin returned.
Her newest innovation is a thousand-piece
jigsaw puzzle laid out on the end of the
counter. She said it was for people who
had to wait. There is rarely a line in the
Moncure post office. I’ve been in offices
where there was always a line of a dozen
people waiting, and the person on the
window was surly. Not in Moncure. We
have high standards, and so does Robin.
To my surprise, people are filling in
the jigsaw. They’ve got the corners
and sides, and are now working on the
middle. We meet our neighbors there,
too, and say hello even when we don’t
know their names. People have been
given a jump when their battery died.
I had to wait for a tow truck once.
Robin came out to check on me. I’ve
asked men when they were at the
counter to carry a heavy box of books
to my truck, to save Robin’s back. Such
neighborliness is rare now in our
country, but it’s alive and well in
Robin’s post office.
Sunday, February 25, 2018
Okra in my garden after the Hurricane Irene in 2011
Flowers of the Heart Twenty-Two February 25, 2018
For Rhonda Whitley
What a mixture Rhonda is. She did make me angry
in the early period. She found me bossy and was
very sarcastic about this. But when I fell on the
road, she was here to make sure I was all right. She
ended up liking and forgiving me. She has
worked tirelessly for our coal ash group. As
treasurer, she co-chaired the fund-rising committee
with Sheila. We’ve had plate sales–fried fish,
hot dogs–and gospel sings. Some failed, but she
took those in stride. The most recent two had
to be canceled. First, they couldn’t find enough
help, and the Lions Club fish sale was the same day
as our planned chili supper. Now she usually calls
to celebrate some success we have in getting in
donations. Not long ago, one of our members
gave $1000. Sometimes, to share frustrtions,
but I’m no longer the one she’s angry at. She moved
here from Wisconsin, and only after settling in
with her horse and her dogs, did she learn of our
coal ash problem. Her response was to go to
work. She volunteered to be treasurer, which
turned out to be a lot more complex than she
realized. Lots of rules for non-profits handling money.
We have to get our financial information to our
parent organization, which gives us, as a chapter,
our non-profit status. When she was so angry, I
backed off, let her go her own way instead of
offering advice. Probably other people have
resented my bossiness, but she let me know.
She says now that I “pushed her buttons.” Back
then I said,”Would you like to be the chair?”
“Oh, no!” So now she keeps an eye on my
health; wants reports. When I told her I thought
some of my episodes were from stress, she said,
“Oh, no, not possible.” She was an ear, nose,
and throat doctor. A traffic accident forced her
to retire young, but she likes to help people when
they’re sick or must go to the emergency room.
When I succeed in pulling in more donations,
she praises me and even boasts of me to others.
I say, “I laid it on pretty thick” It was true. I told
my friends the coal ash dumping was demoralizing
us. She herself has been suffering back problems
and seeing a doctor–-as infrequently as possible.
She continues to do all she can, even in pain. She
was having a fight with her electric company,
which is also the one sending us coal ash. She
told them they were a terrible company, preying
on innocent people. They were threatening to
turn off her power. I suggested she not call them
names right now. She was waiting outside her
house, with her back hurting, in the rain, to
confront them and take photos, which she planned
to publicize. I urged her not to do that alone, but
call her neighbors and our coal ash lawyer, who
might have ideas. I said she could come here, if
they cut the power and sleep on my couch. She
said no. Anyway she was ready to cope with a
power outage, and she wanted to catch them in
the act. She did call the lawyer, who wasn’t in,
and the neighbors, who came over. The truck
never did come. The next morning the lawyer
returned her call and gave her a number for
the North Carolina Utilities Commission.
The woman who took the call successfully
intervened and extcnded the deadline so she
could resolve the issue wieth her electric
company. I have to smile. She has a hard head,
but such a passionate heart.
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Coal Ash Mountains. We have these now in our community
Flowers of the Heart Twenty-One February 18, 2018
For Harold Taylor
Harold was the first person in Moncure to welcome me.
I had searched for a small house and land I could afford,
and the only one was here, and he was a neighbor. I had
learned this community was fighting against a low-level
nuclear dump, and I decided to buy the house and join
the fight. I went to the next meeting, which was held
next door in the Celestial Mason Lodge. He welcomed
me. They’d fought for ten years, and their numbers
had dwindled, but he and Mary MacDowell were still
fighting, and I helped. Mary told us that CP&L also
planned to store more nuclear waste at Shearon Harris
in their pools. That became the next battle once the dump
was given up. The trains carrying the waste came
through Moncure. Harold got me to work for Margaret
Pollard at the election in 2000. She was on the board
when we pushed to have the commissioners write to the
Attorney General to stop the waste trains coming
through Moncure. Margaret was wavering. Harold pressed
her on the phone. I spoke at the meeting and told how
our fire department had no idea what to do if a train
wrecked in Moncure. Our resolution passed. Then
we worked on air pollution, again with North Carolina
WARN to stop it. At first we hit a lot of resistance
in the community, but eventually we got through
when some North Carolina State students and their
professor came to Moncure to speak to the new
community group, Southeast Chatham Citizens
Advisory Council. A large community audience,
including several commissioner and sheriff
candidates, came to the meeting, and the statistics
were staggering. Our plant put in the air more
formaldehyde than any similar plant in the country.
People who lived near this Sierra Pine plant
were having more breathing illnesses than usual.
Our commissioners sent for the Department of
Air Quality to solve this. We also had help from
two experts on air quality: George Lucier and
Jane Gallagher. I remember the Sierra Pine Vice
President told me that formaldehyde dissipates
in the air so was not a problem. I began to learn
how corporate polluters defended themselves.
Harold and I attended SCCAC meetings, but
were given no real power. There were always
these fights against pollution. Over the years
Harold and I didn’t always agree, but as my
neighbor he often helped me, and once he
told me I was a leading citizen. He has been
in his quiet way from the beginning. The
black community listened to him. He pulled
my truck out of a ditch once, and to this day
he will help me if I ask. Sometimes he simply
mows along the front on or on the land i own
between my house and the lodge. After a
car accident in 2015, when a speeding car
rammed me from behind, my old truck
took the jolt better than I did. I got a ride
home with Chloe next door and called
Harold to help me retrieve the truck.
I had refused the rescue squad. He said,
Judy, you’d better go in and have it checked
out. I did. I was fine, but it was wise to find
out. The other driver’s insurance paid the
hospital bill. Sometimes, as now, when we
fight the coal ash dumping, life in our
community is not easy, and we get
discouraged, but I know Harold is there,
with a clear mind and a good heart.
Sunday, February 11, 2018
Spider lilies, or Naked Ladies, among the bamboo grasses
Flowers of the Heart Twenty February 11, 2018
For Joanie McLean
Joanie is fragile some way, but tough
underneath. She came to me for help
with her poetry. She has worked at it
steadily for years–maybe ten years now.
She took my Proust class and was very
conscientious about reading and studying
the material each week. She has been
in many poetry groups, and last fall joined
my class on Monday night, which I do by
Skype. She has brought me kindling
off and on, and dried grasses in a vase.
She has changed her life in major ways,
left a more conservative back story, and
lives at a wetlands farm where she slides
as close to the natural world as she can
get, fearless where coyotes and other
prey-seeking creatures roam at night.
Then she takes them into poems, pushing
at that mysterious edge few of us dare
to encounter, between realities–animal
and spiritual. I find her cheerful and
accepting of human foibles, clear-eyed
when many people stagger as if blind-
folded. I asked her to comment on my
new poetry book, and she said what
I would have wanted her to say if I’d
known what it was. I didn’t know I
was facing my death there, but she did.
If you’ve ever been afraid to die, read
Judy Hogan’s "Those Eternally Linked
Lives." Here, in 30 deft poems, we are
carried along with Hogan as she
encounters loss, aging, and illness.
But she comes through it all with
such grace and humility, we are left
breathless with delight and hope.
Hogan clearly believes in poetry as
revelation: “The human spirit has
been here before. We know how
to die if we have to.” That was the
corner I turned, but I didn’t see it
until she named it. That’s what true
poets do. Like a will-o’-the-wisp,
she’s there, then gone, but something
evocative tells me she’ll be back,
maybe when I least expect it.
Sunday, February 4, 2018
Snow goose image borrowed from the Cornell website on birds. See those black wingtips? I saw them on the Haw in the early 90s.
Flowers of the Heart Nineteen February 4, 2018
For Pete MacDowell
I knew Mary first. She worked for Chatham
County back in 1998, when we were still fighting
the low level nuclear dump. She brought Pete
to a party I had here, but it was when he took
my poetry class that I got to know him better.
About that time, in 2014, I published my
love song This River: An Epic Love Poem.
He was very enthusiastic and bought it for his
friends, one of whom was a Taoist, and wrote:
“This epic poem is a page turner. Think Romeo and
Juliet in the US and Russia in their 50s talking
through a translator. If you love the interior dialog
of Jane Austen, intense feelings searching for
clues from the other, with all that hope and
fear, this is it. But it is also a deep meditation on
our nature as a human species and our fundamental
relationship with other species. The two rivers,
at one level at least, are the Haw and the Volga.
Judy did most of her writing from the banks of
the Haw. Her feel for nature is transformative.
She has a deep Taoist understanding of our
link with nature.” Those words sang in my heart.
Not long after that, Pete retired from being a
strategist with North Carolina WARN, and
they moved to Alexandria, Virginia, to be near
their daughter and grandchild. Pete returned
to the poetry class, which we then did by
Skype. He led the way. Skype worked most
of the time, and we kept going, and pulled
in a few more poets: Katherine, Tracey, Joanie,
Clare. Pete wrote new poems every week,
lampooning Trump and other politicians’
reckless behavior in a democracy. He also
described the geese and ducks which came
to the pond behind his ground-floor apartment,
and his grandson’s antics. Sometimes he sang
of other loners he met in his neighborhood.
Once his mind had ranged wide, plotting
strategy that would teach Duke Energy
better manners. He’d always send me notes
of praise when I’d write caustic letters
to the editor. This year my newest poetry
book emerged. Pete waxed enthusiastic
again. “Judy, I am absolutely loving
Those Eternally Linked Lives. Please
send me three more. Thanks so much
for your guidance in poetry and life.”
Out of my love and the suffering
which accompanied it, I somehow
spoke to Pete and others, too. A
writer lives for such words. They
reassure and heal. They carve themselves
deep in the mind. So many risks, not
to mention agonies of doubt have their
confirmation: you did the right thing.